When the event returned to the Tour calendar in 2017, he won again – and he successfully defended his title in 2018. In addition, he has 10 other top-10 finishes from 14 appearances at a course he says is his favourite in the world. After his first round this week in the newly named and upgraded Estrella Damm N.A. Andalucía Masters, García said, “I love this place, there is no doubt about that. It kind of has something that helps me.”
For 2019, he was back in familiar territory, second one stroke behind Frenchman Victor Perez after a first round five-under 66. He found things more difficult on the second day, but a one-over 72 still left him with a share of second place, albeit four strokes adrift of the halfway leader, South Africa’s Christiaan Bezuidenhout. Keeping him company, and the home country fans even happier, on 138 were local (Guadiaro) star Álvaro Quirós and Adri Arnous.
The highest world-ranked player in the field (11th), Jon Rahm was joint 23rd after opening 69-72 – a significant improvement on his debut in the 2017 edition, when he missed the cut in his first start as a professional on home Spanish soil.
Of the rest of the field, 2016 Spanish Open winner (also at Valderrama) Andrew “Beef” Johnston (70-73) had a share of 42nd place, while the only Spaniard to win (so far) on the European Tour this season, Jorge Campillo (73-71), was 55th with another local-based Spaniard, Alejandro Cañizares (71-73), right on the weekend cut-off mark (two-over 144).
Notables missing the cut included Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño (74-71), 2008 European Tour number one Robert Karlsson (73-72) and José María Olazábal (71-77) – as well as last week’s winner in Germany, Andrea Pavan (73-73).
After his second round, García said, “Obviously it was very difficult this afternoon; the greens were very firm and it got quite windy, more than yesterday afternoon. I just didn’t make any putts, but I felt like I played really well under the conditions and the difficulty of the course. The way the course is playing you have to pick your spots, there are some good spots where you can be aggressive, but you also have to be a little bit careful. It’s always great to play in Spain. Playing in front of Spanish people is amazing; I always enjoy it, it’s one of my favourite things, and thanks to that I’ve been very successful in Spain.”